Approaches Year 12 Mock revision

  • Created by: msahay
  • Created on: 03-06-19 08:34

Wundt + Introspection

Wundt used introspection - a technique used to gain insight into how mental processes work 

He trained researchers to report on their inner experience when presented with a stimulus such a problem to be solved and report back to him which he would then analyse. 

This was not replicable research and too subjective as it was based on only one person's experience.

Psychology today is a scientific discipline and uses a variety of methods to study behaviour, some focus mostly on empirical and others argue that this field has some inevitable degree of subjectivity to it

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Biological Approach

sees behaviour as rooted in the biology and physiology of the body. Biopsychologists believe that an individual's behaviour is affected by genes, CNS + chemistry of the body. 


advantageous physical + psychological characteristics which increase the chances of an organism surviving and reproducing (adaptive traits) will be more likely to be passed onto the subsequent offspring. 

GENOTYPE - individual's genetic make-up 

PHENOTYPE - characteristics that are a result of genes and environment interacting


Twin studies can be used to assess to what extent psychological characteristics are genetically inherited (nature) or caused by the environment (nurture).

If MZ twins show a higher likelihood of sharing behaviours than DZ twins, there is argued to be a genetic component. Concordance rate = avg % probability that other twin will also possess characteristic. 


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Biological Approach continued


CNS - made up of the brain + spinal cord, transfers messages to + from environment. Controls physiology of the body e.g. breathing, eating 

PNS - sends and receives information to the CNS e.g. about temp, threat levels. 

ANS - affects reaction to threat and homeostasis

SNS - important in movment and receives information from the skin e.g. temperature. 

NEURON - nerve cell that transfers info throughout nervous system


ENDOCRINE SYSTEM - maintains levels of hormones in body. Levels of hormones in the body can influence the individual's behaviour

NEUROTRANSMITTERS - abnormal levels of chemicals in the brain can influence individual's behaviour e.g. low levels of serotonin have been linked to OCD. 

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Biological Approach Evaluation

Biological approach employs scientific methods e.g. lab experiments on physiological structures and processes conducted under controlled conditions. These produce quantitative data that can be analysed for cause-effect relationships, increasing the objectivity of research. 

Findings have resulted in practical applications such as drug therapy that alleviate symptoms of psychological problems. This improves the quality of lives of sufferers e.g. antidepressants allow depressives to become more positive in their thinking. 

Biological approach is determinist and reductionist- assumes that all behaviours are biological in origin and ignores the role of environmental factors (nurture) and cognitions.  For example, biopsychologists focus on genetic factors in understanding intelligence rather than schooling. This narrow approach oversimplifies the complexity of human psychology by reducing us to biological parts and does not acknowledge free will. 

Much experimental research conducted by biological psychologists is based on animal research which are limited in the extent to which we can generalise to human psychology. 

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Behaviourist Approach

sees learning through our experience and environment as influencing behaviour. 

  • only observable behaviour should be studied - it is measurable scientifically unlike thought processes
  • there is no genetic influence on behaviour - we are blank state
  • animal behaviour is valid to study as they have the same learning principles as us


learning by association where two stimuli are repeatedly paired. The response which is elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone.


Dogs naturally salivate (UCR) in the prescence of food (UCS). By repeatedly pairing the food (UCS) with bell (neutral stimulus), just before the presentation of food, Pavlov found that dogs eventually salivated at the sound of the bell alone. 

The dogs had made an association with the ringing of the bell as an indication of food about to be presented so they salivated. Therefore, bell became a CS eliciting a CR. 

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CC Pavlov Evaluation


  • Pavlov used variety of dog breeds - large sample size + findings can be generalised to many dogs.
  • Dogs raised in kennels - do no represent natural dog upbringing, unethical 
  • Dogs are harnessed and tied up - artificial and unethical as it causes harm to dogs. 
  • Dogs are not allowed to hear, see, smell or hear anything outside - prevents extraneous variables that make dogs salivate - IV has been isolated to check effects of DV appropriately.


Watson showed the acquisition of phobias via CC in Little Albert study (supports Pavlov)

Animal study limits the extent to which findings can be generalised to humans. 

CC is scientific - based on empirical evidence using controlled conditions like Pavlov

With CC, is is limiting to see behaviour solely in terms of nuture - oversimplifies complexity of human behaviour and ignores the role of nature. (reductionist approach)

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Operant Conditioning

learning by consequence where behaviour is modified by reinforcement or punishment. 

  • Positive reinforcement - behaviour that elicits pleasant consequnce is more likely to be repeated in future
  • Negative reinforcement - behaviour that avoids an unpleasant consequence is more likely to be repeated
  • Punishment - behaviour that elicits an unpleasant consequence is less likely to be repeated

SKINNER: Created a Skinner Box and placed a rat inside

Rat would push a lever (behaviour) would release a food pellet (pleasant consequnce). This positive reinforcement increased frequency of lever pressing

Lights + sounds would indicate that a shock was about to occur. If rat pushed lever (behaviour) it would stop the occurence of shock (avoidance learning). This negative reinforcement increased frequency of lever pressing. 

Heat in the box was turned off (unpleasant consequnce) when the rat pushed lever (behaviour). This negative reinforcement decreased frequency of lever pressing. 

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OC Skinner Evaluation

  • high level of control - could establish cause and effect relationship between the IV (result of pushing lever) and DV (no. of times rat pushes lever)
  • Animal study - the extent to which findings can be generalised to humans is debatable (may respond to positive or negative reinforcement differently)
  • Unethical to keep rats confined and shock them - physical harm


Operant conditioning can explain a wide variety of behaviours e.g. addiction and the maintenance of phobias

Operant conditioning has practical applications such as token economy which can be used in classrooms and prisons

Operant conditioning does not consider the role of inherited and cognitive factors in learning - incomplete view of learning in humans and animals. Bandura found that humans can learn through observation rather than just through personal experience. 

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Social Learning Theory

SLT considers role of behaviour and cognitive meditational processes.

learning process where behaviour is learnt through imitation and observation of others, usually a model

  • Imitation - mimicking behaviour of a model after observation
  • Model - an individual that that the observer identifies with in some way and whose behaviour is mimicked
  • Identification - observer is influenced by an individual (model) that they feel similar to or wish to be like
  • Vicarious reinforcement - reinforcement observer sees an individual receiving e.g. positive reinforcement or punishment. 

Mediational processes - cognitions which influence whether we will imitate an observed behaviour

  • Attention - observer must see behaviour being performed
  • Retention - observer must remember behaviour being performed
  • Reproduction - observer must be able to perform behaviour
  • Motivation - observer must be willing to perform behaviour. 
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Bobo Doll experiment

to test if aggression could be learnt through observation and imitation

Bandura divided 72 children into 3 groups with 12 boys and 12 girls each. 

  • Group 1 observed a male and female model aggressing against the Bobo doll.
  • Group 2 observed a male and female model not aggressing against the Bobo doll
  • Group 3 observed no model at all

Children were then individually taken to another room and given mild aggression arousal by telling them that they couldn't play with the toys in the room. Children were then invidually taken to another room where they were told they could play with any toys they wanted - there was a variety of agressive e.g. hammer and non-aggressive toys e.g. teaset and a Bobo doll where they were observed for 20 mins. 

Children who had observed an aggressive model acted more aggressively towards the Bobo doll than those who had seen a non-aggressive model.

Boys acted more aggressively than girls 

Greater level of imitation if the role model was the same gender as the child. 

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SLT Bandura Evaluation

  • Effects of social learning are only short-term - difficult to see if there are any long-term effects on the children
  • Most people would hit a Bobo doll because that is what it is designed to do - therefore, the internal validity of the experiment is lessened. 
  • Variables were properly controlled e.g. gender of model, time observing, behaviour of model
  • Inter-rater reliability was high 
  • Matched pairs design - children had similar levels of aggression 

SLT cannot explain some forms of aggression e.g. reactive aggression. When aggression is carried out as a reaction to external stimulus such as jealousy or pain this is better explained by the frustration-aggression hypothesis rather than observational learning. 

SLT considers both behavioural and cognitive factors which makes it a more inclusive and credible theory but can also cause it to stray into unobservable, more subjective territory. 

SLT ignores the nature side of the debate - it does not consider that some people may have certain predispositions or physiology to be more aggressive for example, in the study boys have higher testosterone which could explain their aggressiveness. 

SLT cannot explain behaviours where there are no models present e.g. psychopathy. 

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Behaviourist Approach Evaluation

Behaviourism adopts a strictly empirical approach as it only focuses on observable behaviour that can be measured or tested - it does not make inferences or refer to hypothetical concepts e.g. "motivation" which increases its objectivity. 

Behaviourism employs highly scientific methods such as the experimental method where experiments are conducted under controlled conditions in the lab. This allows for establishment of cause and effect relationships between the IV and DV to understand exactly what influences behaviour. 

Behaviourist ideas are used widely to help change negative behaviour in prisosn and schools - so it benefits directly to society

Behaviourism can be criticised for its extreme nurture viewpoint as it only considers environmental influences on behaviour. It does not consider the importance of biology or cognition in behaviour and thus is reductionist (as it reduces all behaviour down to learning) and deterministic (argues that our behaviours are determined by learning experiences only and not free choice). 

Behaviourism was formulated on animal studies. Animals respond fairly mechanically that give support to their theories but humans may not because we differ in complexity of behaviour due to cognitions, genes etc..


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Cognitive Approach

Thought processes should be studied to explain behaviour. 

The mind works like a computer in that it has an input from senses and processes and produces an output of specific behaviours

Stimulus and response is appropriate but only if thought process that occurs between these is considered. 

Schema - collection of cognitive ideas that are formed by an individual through experience which gives them expectations and helps them understand the world around them. Each person's schema is individual and gives them a unique view of reality.

Cognitive psychologists believe that theoretical and computer models can be used to make inferences about mental processes. 

  • mind functions like a computer analogy
  • components of the human mind can be tested individually like a computer's - data findings can be adjusted to fit the model in question
  • this model dominates research even today. 
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Cognitive Evaluation

Cognitive approach has been useful in researching, describing and understanding the effects of mental processes and cognitions in behaviour e.g. Loftus and Palmer's EWT study showed how memories can become distorted because of leading questions. Studies such as these have real-life applications - in this case, how witnesses are questioned by police and cross-examining by lawyers. Cognitive therapies such as CBT are widely employed by the NHS and research evidence shows that these are effective in treating disorders like depression, phobias etc.

Cognitive neuroscience aims to relate mental processes to brain structure which can increase understanding of what parts of the brain are associated with certain thought patterns that elicit certain responses. 

The use of computer models can be seen oversimplifying complex processes. Humans are qualitatively different to computers in decision making, emotion, beliefs etc so relying on the analogy of the computer and the human mind can be somewhat problematic as it can br criticised for making epople seem mechanic. 

Cognitive approach is based on scientific rigour such as the experimental method in research but it also relies heavily on inference - going beyond immediate evidence to make assumptions about mental processes that cannot be observed which can be deemed subjective 

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Fight or Flight Response

A threat in the environment activates the hypothalamus

which sends a message to the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands trigger the release of adrenaline to the endocrine system and noradrenaline in the brain.

This prompts physical changes in the body such as increased heart rate and pupil dilation

as part of the sympathetic nervous system of the autonomic nervous system

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